Sunday, July 25, 2010

On Dragonflies

One of the things that bring pleasure to the heart of this old wanderer, as I pass by the lanes and fields and villages and streams and hills of wherever I happen to be, is unexpected colour. Many times I have written of the overriding yellowness and brownness of this place in the summer- even the greens are dry, dusty greens- and you have to make the most of any colour the eye can find. In the spring this is mostly poppies, broom, gorse, rosemary, thyme and daisies, with the almond groves in some places adding a sprinkling of white at eye-level, but in summer the only thing that you are likely to see breaking the pattern of burnt earth is lavender. You can find whole fields of soft purple flowers merging into a carpet of colour, standing out starkly against the shades of summer, in some surprising places.

Outside the village there is an old, very old, plant consisting of a giant, ancient, open-air oven fed from a great stack of logs which stands nearby, and whose purpose is to extract perfumes from wild flowers, including lavender and rosemary. Those who do it are known as ‘piconeros’ and it has gone on in much the same form for centuries. Somehow they have managed to survive into the age of mass production and automation and they still seem to be making a living out of it. It is they who provide a little of that colour.

In England, in my hometown, there is a spot on the river where a bridge crosses, that has become a little world of its own. The bushes that have grown up on each side, overhanging the water, a couple of willows just beyond the bushes doing the same at a larger scale, the slowness of the current allowing algae to grow plentifully on the rocks on the bed, the water lilies that partly cover the surface and were in flower last month, and the water itself, clear and cool, provide a home for ducks, coots, moorfowl, swans, their various young, for fish small and large, and for insects of all the many kinds that like water.

Among the many kinds of annoying little fly that zizz and buzz and fly into your eyes and mouth, and sting you constantly, are insects of great beauty, mostly butterflies and dragonflies. Unable to capture any successfully with the camera while in England, I have been on the lookout for dragonflies over here when I have been to the nearby lakes, as we do quite regularly. And I’ve been lucky to get a number of photos of a range of colours, from cobalt blue to blood red to black to the pure gold of the chap in the picture above*.

As I said, you have to go out of your way to find colour here in the summer, but it’s worth it when what you find is this.

*I have just worked out how to upload photos on this stick thing without waiting about all afternoon, so there should be more of them from now on.

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